FOUR young thugs who brutally attacked an innocent 16 year-old boy have been shown mercy by a judge.

The gang - now all aged 17 - pounced on their defenceless victim after throwing chips at him in Prestwick, Ayrshire last June 20.

One of the attackers had been training with a Scottish Premiership football club at the time.

The victim was left unconscious after he was battered to the ground then kicked and stamped on the head.

He suffered a bleed to the skull and a fractured eye socket.

The four were today sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow having earlier pled guilty to assaulting the 16 year-old to his severe injury and danger of life.

Lady Rae noted the attackers all came from good backgrounds, with no previous convictions and had "impressive" references.

But, she said: "You behaved rather like a mob and attacked a young man for no apparent reason.

"The CCTV footage, to say the least, is disturbing."

The judge told the four the crime merited being locked up.

But, considering all factors, she instead ordered them each to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.

They will also be supervised for two years.

Lady Rae: "I will have no hesitation in imposing a custodial sentence if you breach this order.

"Take this opportunity. I hope you have learned a lesson."

No one involved can be named due to their age.

The court heard three of the attackers were in a group throwing chips at the victim who was with his friends on Boyfield Gardens, Prestwick.

Prosecutor Bill McVicar said the boy was "afraid for his safety". He was pushed as he waited to cross a road.

Mr McVicar went on: "One of the boys approached the victim from behind, threw him to the ground and punched him repeatedly to the head."

The victim initially overpowered the attacker but he was then punched and kicked by a second boy.

The other attackers then kicked and stamped on the stricken boy.

The victim was taken to hospital where he was treated for his serious injuries. Fortunately, he has made a recovery.

The four, all of Ayrshire, were held by police.

Mr McVicar told the court: “One of the attackers said he kicked the victim twice on the body...he described these blows like kicking a football with force.”

Defence counsel Susan Duff, representing one of the boys, previously said: "He excelled as a footballer and was scouted for a Scottish Premiership team and trained for three months but he was let go."